When as a child one has no cable, one is forced to watch some pretty disturbing things--hence there was a period of time eight to seventeenish where I conversed knowledgably on the Iran-Contra Scandal, food allergies, and the housing crisis due to being forced to watch 60 Minutes every Sunday at six. It also was my way of beating everyone at Jeapordy. I was very, very good at Jeaopordy. Even if I couldn't pronounce half my answers.
But anyway, Siskell and Ebert came on at five-thirty, and I'd sack out on the couch (as one does) and watch reviews for movies my parents would never, ever, ever let me rent.
(Up until I was twelve, my parents continued to have fairly traumatizing flashbacks of the day I accidentally watched a documentary entitled The Elephant Man. They were many years getting over it. So was I.)
(I still can't go watch it.)
Actually, I loved them for the same reason I love www.rottentomatoes.com. I love horror movies. I just cannot watch them. (Did you not read the elephant man thing above? Or any time anyone mentions The Ring in my presence?) I can read horror and I can sometimes write horror, but the visual medium I simply can't deal with. Part of this I do think is childhood conditioning, and one of the reasons that I allow Child a certain latitude in horror movie watching--to really enjoy them, you have to be afraid and somewhat desensitized, and the afraid I'm okay with, but the visual I'm very much not, and that has to start early or it's way too hard to get past it. And horror, to me, is the best plot ever. It's mythological and spiritual and has monsters and epic battles and good versus evil in the purest form (sometimes), with vampires and ghosts and werwolves and Mysterious Unknown Creatures and just--gah. Hellraiser, thick with horrific mythology and secret societies, puzzles and riddles and skinning alive, sorry, can't deal with it, dammit.
So. Siskell and Ebert, where I got the bare bones of the plot and never saw the mutilation, which was nice, because my mind is perfectly capable of creating that kind of imagery all on its own. It got me through all five Halloweens (I eventually watched Halloween and seriously, I loved that) and Friday the 13th (to be able to converse with schoolmates) and a plethera of movies I couldn't stand to see but always, always wanted to know the story. What happened, who fought what, why they fought, magic, mystery, sacrifice, intrigue, mythos. I wanted the stories.
Later, during my Stephen King formative years and the edited-for-tv-movie period (there is nothing so tragically car-accidnet-watching like a really bloody horror movie edited for TV; it's just surreal), I had a fairly happy balance of story to imagery ratio. But I still remember waiting for Siskell and Ebert to review the latest movies I'd watched as trailers, intrigued and hopeful, because they might hate it or like it, but they'd always tell me about it and even if I could never see the film, at least I'd know the story.
Rottentomatoes has a similar, though not quite the same, function. I knew Siskell and Ebert. I could predicte what they hated and what they'd like with fairly decent accuracy. Soimetimes they'd surprise me, or annoy me, or review something like The English Patient or Big Boring Meaningful Movie of Deep Meaning and I'd you know, hate the world for a while, but then they'd get over it and it would be awesome.
This is brought to you by reading Ebert's review of Seed of Chucky. If I cannot watch it, I will giggle incessantly over the reviews.